The Special Operations community has mastered the art of maximizing and identifying talent in providing the military with some of the best and brightest leaders in the world today. It is an area that America’s business leaders can, and should, take a page from.

The most effective businesses are building from within. They develop their future leaders by investing in their own workforce rather than trying to buy the next generation of leaders from their competitors. 

Training is paramount to create the next generation of leaders in any business. But, where many American businesses are failing is being able to recognize that talent and bring the right people on board who can help them grow and evolve into the next several decades. 

While no one could foresee the absolute crash of our economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, it is the companies that will be able to adapt and overcome these challenges that will survive. The key is finding leaders that can meet these unforeseen challenges. 

Finding the talent to take on these jobs is the difficult part.

The military’s Special Operations community is far ahead of the civilian sector in identifying, training, and fielding the next generation of leaders. 

To address this topic author Mike Sarraille, an ex-Marine NCO and Navy SEAL officer, along with co-authors George Randle and Josh Cotton, Ph.D., has written an excellent book, The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent.

The Talent War delves into how the military Special Operations community has created a way of identifying talent and streamlining its training approach called “Assessment and Selection.” This process identifies the core attributes that the military’s SOF requires. Yet, those same attributes also apply to the business world. These include:

  • Drive: The never-ending need for achievement and self-improvement.
  • Resiliency: The ability to bounce back from any setback.
  • Adaptability: The ability to adapt to changing situations, learn new things, and try new methods.
  • Humility: Having the self-confidence to understand that others may have experience and knowledge superior to your own and utilize them.
  •  Integrity: The absolute knowledge of knowing and doing things that are not only right but legal.
  • Effective Intelligence: The ability to apply knowledge to real-world situations.
  • Team-ability: Being able to work as a member of a team.
  • Curiosity: The desire to question the status quo while looking to find better and new solutions to problems.
  • Emotional strength: Having a positive attitude, a high degree of empathy, and the ability to control your emotions and think clearly in a highly charged, chaotic environment. 

These are traits that are highly sought after in the Special Operations community and continually searched for by cadre members involved in the Assessment and Selection process. However, as Saraille points out, too many businesses today use industry experience and hard skills as the top hiring factor. This alone cuts out a tremendous amount of talent that is out there. 

We recently had Saraille on our SOFREP Radio podcast. He spoke about using only industry experience as a hiring factor. “If we only hired people with industry experience in the Special Operations community, there would be no Special Operations Command.” 

The concept in The Talent War is simple, effective, and is what SOF has long ago learned: Hire for character, train for skill.

The authors have adapted the Five Special Operations Truths to the business world. These truths are:

  • Humans are more important than Hardware.
  • Quality is better than Quantity.
  • Special Operations Forces cannot be mass-produced.
  • Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.
  • Most Special Operations require non-SOF assistance

As The Talent War says,

“The five Special Operation Forces (SOF) truths have led to a foundational talent mindset that drives the success of Special Operations. These truths directly translate to business truths:

Human capital is your most critical resource, your only true competitive advantage in any industry.

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It’s not about a head count; it’s about talent.

Hard skills can be taught and thus mass-produced, but talent cannot. Talent is innate and hard to create where it does not exist.

Successful talent acquisition requires well-thought-out, forward-thinking planning. It takes time to develop a world-class talent pool.

It’s a team effort. All supporting business functions, all departments, are crucial to your business’s success.

By adopting and living by these truths, you can begin to build the talent needed to achieve Special Operations levels of victory.”

It all comes down to hiring the right people because talent wins both in the business and Special Operations world.

The book goes into much more detail than we present here. The Talent War should be required reading for business leaders as well as military members that will soon be transitioning to the civilian world. Because there exist a lot of misconceptions out there as to what military leadership entails and looks like. 

Be sure to check out our SOFREP Radio podcast with Mike Saraille as well. 

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